Chandini Chowk- Timeless Lure

A man holds up a fake chandelier the size of 40feet, and that is the entrance to Bhagirath Palace known for its unique down to earth prices for exotic lampshades. A nearby lane showcases a variety of electronics, locks, phones, rotating fans etc; if you are indeed looking for a steal this is the market to visit!

Anyone who walks these crowded streets opposite Jama Masjid in Old Delhi could be forgiven for doing a double take. On the right side of the road is this gigantic monumental pride of India the Red Fort, and on the left side is this manic, crowded, teeming with boundless energy in its tiny streets and shops offering bargain deals.

Here you see aam janta rubbing shoulders with the sophisticates, realism & practicality rubbing shoulders with urbane energy. All hunting for great bargains. I even saw a shop displaying stacks of paper money – fake dollars, euros and rupees—to attract customers:)

Just before Chandini Chowk we passed by a street named Daryaganj , where most items for sale on this block, were either ‘seconds’ or stolen. It was indeed a Sunday flea market that had families with limited spending power come out in hordes to shop.

Walk down the traditional street of CC, and the smell of food (samosas, kachoris, bhatura channa and jalebis) overwhelms the exhaust fumes from the car and motorbike traffic jockeying for space with the rickshaws and the ubiquitous human driven bicycle taxis. All cursing each other with the harsh sun beating down the weary traveler and the shopper alike.

These quaint streets didn't even consist of streets in the initial times, but were more a collection of little communities, separated from each other by gates and bamboo hedges, according to the book "Old Delhi -- Streets of Chandini Chowk". Over time urbanization and development have given rise to many road blockades and one way streets or no way street as the case maybe, to avoid humans being trampled. Humans jostle with each other, with non existent pavements and black smoke laden traffic, to find some space to exist!

From streets devoted to grains, bottles, charcoal, paint, to todays streets – that sell herbs, dry fruits, antique silver and gold to fancy clothing and wedding attire, to silk and paintings and statues and glassware, you will find everything you need here, provided you have the patience for crowds and no fuss attitude.

Enterprising merchants have started repairing and selling computers in here. The car driver educated us on the advantages of trading old laptops for new machines in this street! I did see a young man bring in his aging IBM ThinkPad where one of the screen's hinges had snapped in half. He was asked to leave behind his Thinkpad for 4 days as the shopkeeper had to wait for parts to arrive, but the deal was struck for a mere Rs 200/- So much for laptops being too expensive to be repaired!

Chandini Chowks popularity has soared once again with movies being themed around this locale & fashionistas making it trendy to visit. The real estate has soared in value here. The shop owners who live above their stores wouldn't consider any other sort of life. They like the ease of stepping out on the street buying whatever they need, talking with friends over walls, and hate the concept of shifting out of here into apartments in other localities as that would mean no meeting neighbors for days together!

The flip side to this pride of community is when you glance upwards you tend to see a lot of loosely hung cables which looked alarming, reflecting utter neglect and callousness. Thickly congested roads and intense traffic pollution could not be conducive to health. To my mind this is indeed a heavy price to pay for a flourishing business.

What would I wish for to change in this bustling street? Actually, not much. Chandini Chowk derives its character from the myriad things sold, the myriad diversity of people and languages that merge here…I only wish for an enchanting body of water surrounded by trees and featuring some quiet and peace. This should allow the weary shopper and the traveler alike some lung space, to catch ones breath and resume the feverish journey with gusto again.


melinda said...

Hey Mee. nice nice:) did ya relive delhi6?:)

Neelu said...

very picturesque. you have a great talent mee, you made the scene come alive.

RavneetSingh said...

Delhi is about shopping and food. The more crowded the place, the more energized the sentiments!:)

Anon said...

Mee! I got this interesting bit of trivia from Google on Chandini Chowk!
CC was designed by Jahanara, Emperor’s favorite daughter. It was in form of a square. There was also a pool just close to it. It is said that the square and the pool would shimmer in the moonlit nights. Hence it was given the name of Chandni Chowk—the moonlit square. There is also another legend about its name. The market got its name from the large number of silver—chandi- smiths who worked here.
So you harking back to the water body feels absolutely bang on! :)- Runa

gita said...

Despite being disorderly and congested Chandini Chowk is known for all things to do with a wedding! THE place to shop from! I can vouch for that:)

ashish said...

Chaos can be ridiculously funny!

sheila said...

Frankly I was not expecting much from Jama Masjid, but when I did lay my eyes on it, it blew me away! Its stupendous, majestic, its aura radiates a magnetism that draws you in!Despite thronging crowds, this place doesn't feel too overpoweringly crowded in!

Shweta said...

I hated the movie Delhi 6 but the cinematography did justice to old delhi, infact created a certain romantisicm around this great historic place of interest.infact 2 mnths ago I had visited chandini chowk just to go down memory lane and loved spending half a day there. I soaked in its different hues, sightsm smells and felt elated, infact your post takes me back to my last visit

kay said...

your words printed a picture of the movie delhi 6 ,that movie was awesome. hard to believe people enjoy living in such congested dwellings.

Jim said...

I wonder if by magic the locality of Chandini Chowk had to become more organized yet retaining its inherent charm, do you think it would still have the same lure of today? Ofcourse the fact the mkts offer much better pricing and that too will need to be retained. Am talking more spruced up? Would it? I cant imagine!:)

ALLEX said...

hey... great post... you are so right in telling that teh aroma is too nice.... I had gone there and loved the taste of the parathas. Its a great delight.

Mee said...

@Mel - saw Delhi 6 vry recently:)

@Neelu -ty:)

@RS- hehehehehe sounds right:)

@Runa- how interesting! Thanks for sharing this:)

@Gita- must be some task buying all that splendid stuff and then lugging it all till you find your car:)

@Ashish- indeed!

@Sheila- I felt the same way- so much pride and so excited when i first lay eyes on it:)

@Shweta- spoken like a true Delhi gal:)

@Kay- but half of urban India lives like that:)

@Jimmy- its magic is its chaos meethinks:)